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Best Seat in the House

Photography, sports and life as seen through the lens of Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar.

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October 31, 2008 11:42 PM

Prep Football: I Haven't the Foggiest.

Posted by Rod Mar

For Halloween this year I dressed as a newspaper sports photographer.

Clever, I know. Not sure if anyone recognized me, but then again, I didn't knock on any doors.

Had I, the experience might not have been unlike that of Good 'ol Charlie Brown, who famously remarked, "I got a rock."

While I was disappointed not to be Trick or Treating with the kiddos, I was excited to know that the game I'd be shooting featured my high school alma mater, Shorecrest High School.

I had to look at the assignment twice, just to make sure, as my former school hasn't had a winning tradition in football for many years.

Shorecrest was facing Glacier Peak, of Snohomish, with the winner earning a place in the playoffs.

Glacier Peak's cheerleaders brought a pumpkin to commemorate the holiday.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 21mm, ISO 3200, 1/250th sec.,f2.8)

Ah, the memories of returning to Shoreline Stadium, where I did all the typical high school things -- played in the band, tried to be cool with my friends, and furtively tried to get to know cute girl.

Fast forward to the present, where instead being a trumpet playing geek in the band, I'm a newspaper geek who still tries to fit in with the cool kids. However, I am now married to the cute girl. As Carl Spackler says, "So I got that going for me, which is nice".

Attending a high school whose nickname was the "Highlanders", it was initially embarrassing wearing a traditional Scottish kilt as part of our band uniforms. But looking back, it's kind of a cool tradition. Along with the marching band, another tradition we had was a group of bagpipers and Scottish dancers.

I was reminded of this when I saw bagpipers Alex MacLeod, left, and Luke Craft leading the team out on to the field for the game.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 22mm, ISO 3200, 1/250th sec.,f2.8)

Shorecrest took an early 7-0 lead, but Glacier Peak's passing attack started to connect. Luke Westberg (5) made a nifty one-handed grab on a pass reception in the first half as Shorecrest's Sam Heck defends.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8, ISO 5000, 1/800th sec.,f2.8)

At this point, a fog began to settle over the field. The newspaper only needed one photo for an inside page, but our online department needed a photo gallery. As most of our galleries are just photo after photo of action, I wanted to work the fog angle for something different.

Shooting through the haze, I managed to focus on Glacier Peak's John Darling (22) as he tried to tackle Shorecrest's Sam Heck.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8, ISO 5000, 1/640th sec.,f2.8)

Glacier Peak's Tanner Southard made a nice grab.


It was a really low-lying fog for most of the second quarter, and it hung mostly on the north end of the field.



(Nikon D3, VR 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 86mm, ISO 5000, 1/400th sec.,f2.8)

We talk a lot about giving a readers a sense of place, and more than just a football field, I wanted to show where the game was being played. As most high school stadiums are pretty generic, the scoreboard is often a good place to start.



(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8, ISO 5000, 1/640th sec.,f2.8)

Near the end of the game, I was past deadline and just trying to make interesting images. Choosing a wide-angle lens, I was able to show a different view of the fog.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 35mm, ISO 3200, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

Shooting a game on deadline where the paper only needs one small photo is often viewed one of two ways by photographers. It's either easy, because you only need one image, or it's an insult, because you only need one image.

The challenge is remembering that we shoot photos to make great images, not just to put our names in tiny print beneath pictures in the paper.

Online photo galleries allow us to still "publish" our visions, no matter the event.

Pipers, pumpkins and fog all helped to make another Friday night more visual interesting.


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October 27, 2008 8:26 PM

Seahawks: Missing the Shot and Saving Your...(Asterisk).

Posted by Rod Mar

When you're one shooter trying to cover an entire football field, you're not always going to get the shot.

That's just a harsh reality of the job.

Sometimes it's out of your control. The play can happen far away from you. Faces can be obscured by other players or officials. The play can be in front of you but the players can be facing the other way. You could be distracted by the cheerleaders (much more likely to happen in Tampa Bay than anywhere else...or so I've heard).

Other times, it's in your control and you just mess it up. Well, not you, I mean. Me.

There were four pretty big plays in Sunday's Seahawks game at San Francisco that I just didn't get right for one reason or another. Two of them I was able to salvage, two of them just went to hell.

In order, they were:

1. Brandon Mebane's and Patrick Kerney's first quarter sack of San Francisco quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan, resulting in a fumble that Seattle's Darryl Tapp twice had chances to recover but couldn't.

2. Kerney's sack later in the quarter which caused another fumble by O'Sullivan, which Kerney returned 50 yards, nearly for a touchdown.

3. Josh Wilson's interception near halftime, which he returned 75-yards for a touchdown.

4. Seahawks fullback Leonard Weaver's 62-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter, also for a touchdown.

Let's go over them one by one. Maybe reliving the agony will be therapeutic.

On San Francisco's first drive, Seattle's Darryl Tapp and Patrick Kerney forced San Francisco quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan to fumble as he was sacked. Shooting behind the line of scrimmage with a 600mm lens, I was WAY too right on the play and as the loose ball bounced around.

If you could have read my mind during the play you would have heard something like this: WHERE IS IT?...THERE IT IS...WAIT, WHERE'D IT GO NOW...TAPP HAS IT?....CRAP...I CAN'T SEE ANYTHING...THERE'S THE WHISTLE...DAMN.)

The 12th Man will hate me for this, but I was secretly glad that the Seahawks had not recovered the ball and returned it for a touchdown because I was wrong-lensed, then alternately wrong-aimed, and wrong-focused.

Things started out fine. Shooting from behind the line of scrimmage, I see Seattle's Rocky Bernard rushing and sizing up O'Sullivan. Even in a split second you can know that because there is no one else in the frame that a sack could happen.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 400, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

This is the next frame I shot is this one. I'm not sure why I didn't shoot in-between, I can only guess that it's because no good frame presented itself and suddenly I realized the ball was loose. This is very tight framing and in real time at live speed, all this action is happening fast and keeping it all A) in the frame and B) in focus is one of the harder things to do.


Now I'm the victim of a little bad luck with the composition. The ball is out and I've got two Seahawks taking O'Sullivan down to the ground. BUT, everyone is facing away from me no this isn't much of a frame. There's an old sports photography saying that goes, "All you need is two faces and a ball". This one has ball, but ain't got no faces.


Having already been beaten by the dreaded Curse of the Backs of Heads, now I'm paying the price for having the wrong lens. With a 400mm lens, I get Seattle's Darryl Tapp trying to pick the ball up and run it in for a touchdown. But, I'm way too tight and I have another bad frame.


Two frames later, the ball is bouncing away from me and I get more of Tapp in my frame, but clearly the "moment" of the previous frames is gone.


This looks to be a better frame today (Monday) than it was when I was editing, and I probably should have sent it. The problem here is that there was still a lot of smoke and haze over the field leftover from the pregame pyrotechnics. It's a good moment, but the quality of the image looks funky to me.


Rightly or wrongly (clearly I'm having some Monday Morning Quarterback moments about this one), this is the frame I transmitted for the paper and web:



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4 lens, ISO 400, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

A bit later, another huge play occurred when Seattle's Patrick Kerney recovered a fumble as the 49ers threatened to score and he returned yards to set up a Seahawks field goal. Once again, I was in the wrong spot. Was blocked from the sack and then got barely anything of the return.

Don't believe me? Check out these gems.



(Nikon VR 600mm, ISO 400, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)


That's some nice clean sports photography, wouldn't you agree? We could make a list of the problems -- overexposure, missed the peak moment, got blocked on most of the runback, too far way when I did get a good view, and crappy backgrounds (I mean, is that a BARN on the left?). Actually I think I started shooting that play with the 200-400mm lens, and then switched to the 600mm when I realized I might be 110 yards away from a possible touchdown.

At this point, I was going a little crazy as two big plays had happened and I had virtually nothing of either play. Again, I was lucky that Kerney didn't score on the play. I took small comfort that this was still early in the game, but that didn't stop me from updating my Facebook status from my Blackberry during the next media time out (hey, don't hate -- those media time outs are LONG):

"Rod has missed both pictures so far."

I immediately got a handful of smartypants comments from my so-called "friends", ranging from "Were you in the bathroom?" to "Ask them to do it over for you".

Thanks, friends.

Just before halftime, I found myself in the right position for a big play. With San Francisco driving down the field, I decided to stay behind them in the far end zone. I'd already been burned by this in the first quarter, so I guess I wasn't learning from my mistakes very well.

New 49ers coach Mike Singletary decided to go for it instead of kicking a field goal, and Seattle cornerback Josh Wilson jumped the slant route, intercepted the pass and then ran 75 yards right at me as he headed for the end zone.

I saw the whole play, but did a terrible job of placing my single autofocus sensor on Wilson as he made the interception. When you're shooting relatively loose (a 600mm from 85 yards away is loose framing), it's harder to pin the target on your subject than if he was closer to you. Not an excuse, just an explanation. This should be an easy frame to get, and I didn't get it. The only saving grace is that it appears that his arm blocked his face as he made the interception.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 400, 1/2500th sec.,f4.0)



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 400, 1/2500th sec.,f4.0)

However, as Wilson is running at me, I have plenty of opportunities to shoot him. At this point, what is running through my mind is just keeping him in focus and also thinking about what will happen as he scores. This all happens in seconds. You're trying to keep him focus locked and then wondering -- "When he gets to the end zone, will he swoop around the end zone towards the Seattle bench? If so, I better be thinking about the wide angle". Or, "Will he stop in the end zone and celebrate there? If so, the 200-400mm is what I need". Just about then, another thought crosses my mind and I feel a bit of panic -- what if Wilson does some sort of celebratory hotdogging flip into the end zone like you sometimes see? Then the 600mm will be WAY too tight.

Obviously, I overthink things, but that's what happens when you miss a couple of pictures.

As it turns out, the light was nice, I caught his eyes in my frame, and it all worked out okay, even though I missed the key moment.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 400, 1/2500th sec.,f4.0)

I also moved a cropped version at halftime for our website, which can only run squatty horizontal-shaped photos.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 400, 1/2500th sec.,f4.0)

The last big play of the game was a 63-yard touchdown by Seattle's Leonard Weaver, which I conveniently was in the wrong position for once again. It started innocuously enough, with quarterback Seneca Wallace rolling out of the pocket to his left and throwing a little dump pass to Weaver. Here's the not-so-dramatic photo of the reception.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 500, 1/1250th sec., f4.0)

I figure this to be an 10-yard gain at the most, until I hear what's left of the crowd start to buzz. Weaver is running up the near sideline that I'm shooting from and I can't see him as I'm blocked by the Seahawks players on the sidelines. Looking up at the video screen I see him rumbling for the end zone.

I realize this is his second long touchdown and it's an important moment of the game. I think a bunch of swear words (if I say them out loud, I owe each of my kids a dollar per word, so I just think them), and take off running for the other side of the bench where I know Weaver will be headed after his trip to the end zone.

Looking around, I don't see Weaver. Spotting a member of the Seahawks' P.R. staff, I ask where Weaver is. He points towards the end zone and says, "he's not back here yet -- you got time".

Players are making their way back from the celebration and I use them as test subjects since I'm worried about the exposure and also lens flare from the setting sun to my right. (The Nikon wide-angle is in for repairs, so I'm using my Canon instead).

First to pass me is center Chris Spencer. Flare city, as you can see.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, 16-35mm lens @ 16mm, ISO 320, 1/500th sec., f5.6)

Next, receiver Bobby Engram comes back and receives high-fives from team president Tod Leiweke and a player to my right.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, 16-35mm lens @ 16mm, ISO 320, 1/500th sec., f5.6)

Finally, Weaver heads toward me and I fire off a series of frames while squeezed between Leiweke and other players. While editing, I like the composition of the figures and the arms. It seems like a natural lead photo for the sports cover.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, 16-35mm lens @ 16mm, ISO 320, 1/500th sec., f5.6)

Later, on the phone with editors, we discuss whether or not an action or reaction photo is best for the cover. There is sentiment for an action photo as last week's cover was of a solitary Seneca Wallace walking off the field in Tampa. I make the argument that a reaction photo is appropriate as with this victory, the Seahawks ought to be relieved by the win, and that they should climb the standings a bit as every other team in the NFC West lost.

After some discussion, it's decided to go with the picture of Weaver getting congratulated. I think the photo does a good job of capturing the sense of relief the team must have felt after getting back on track, if even against a lowly team like the 49ers.

Even though the day had lots of moments of frustration, the great thing about my job is that there are lots of different ways to visually tell a story. By not panicking too much, I was able to find other images to make up for my occasional misses.

That said, it's better not to miss in the first place.

-----

Here's the pages from Monday's paper. I'm very grateful for the fine editing and great display and I thank all those who help make the pictures look good every day.






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October 20, 2008 10:59 PM

Seahawks: No Offense, But the Seahawks Have No Offense.

Posted by Rod Mar

I went to a football game, and a baseball game broke out.

Or something like that.

Yesterday's game between the Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was most certainly not the top ticket in town, as baseball's Tampa Bay Devil Rays were facing the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.

I knew this because as soon as I entered the photo workroom, all the photographers were wishing they were over in St. Petersburg for that game, which if the Rays won, would send them to the World Series for the first time in their history.

Kickoff and first pitch were at about the same time, and Raymond James Stadium was pretty full. The Bucs were running a live scoreboard for the baseball game in place of the football stats board that usually is in place.

This was not only a blessing for Tampa fans, who could watch the baseball game progress, but also for the Seahawks, who weren't able to see that at halftime that their offense had only managed...one first down...44 yards of total offense (18 on the ground, 26 through the air)...and had the ball for only 9:44 of the 30 minute half.

Dismal.

A Buc Kicking, as it were.

Despite the 1-4 start, there were some Seahawks believers in attendance, including Lauren Wynne, left, and David Wynne of Orlando, who said, "we like to root for underdogs".

Well, there's a couple of fans who will be around for the rest of the season. Care to buy some Huskies tickets while you're at it?



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 100mm, ISO 800, 1/500th sec., f2.8)

Seneca Wallace, the number two quarterback for Seattle, started in place of injured starter Matt Hasselbeck. Wallace figured to be an upgrade for Charlie Frye, the number three man who laid an egg at home against the Green Bay Packers a week ago.

No such luck. Wallace looked hurried and flustered for much of the game, earning the ire of head coach Mike Holmgren on more than one occasion, including a memorable rant after Wallace missed a wide-open Bobby Engram on a third down play.

While the stats won't show that he got sacked often, he was often forced out of his rhythm, and had this pass tipped away by the Bucs' Gaines Adams. This is shot from ground level, lying down on my stomach.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 70mm, ISO 1600, 1/1000th sec., f2.8)

Tampa Bay pretty much had their way with Seattle on both sides of the ball. Tampa Bay's Antonio Bryant looks for yardage as he confounded Seattle defenders including Kelly Jennings (21), Leroy Hill (56) and Patrick Kerney.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/1000th sec., f2.8)

I also moved a cropped version of the photo in order to emphasize the upside-down Seahawks player.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/1000th sec., f2.8)

Even though the Seahawks weren't being blown out on the scoreboard, the outcome was never in doubt.

With a 1-5 record staring them in the face, the Seahawks were a pretty downcast bunch in the second half. I decided that trying to capture the frustration of the game would also speak for the frustration they were experiencing for the season up to this point.

Even reliable-up-til-now kicker Orlindo Mare missed his first field goal of the season, a 38-yarder into a swirling wind.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/1000th sec., f2.8)

Head coach Mike Holmgren exploded at officials after they picked up a penalty flag that appeared to have been thrown at a Tampa Bay's Antonio Bryant as he pushed off on Seattle's Kelly Jennings on a play that resulted in a touchdown.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 140mm, ISO 1600, 1/1000th sec., f2.8)

This horned Seahawks/Ogre/Fan was downcast as well.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/1000th sec., f2.8)

After the game, quarterback Seneca Wallace walked off the field alone.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 25mm, ISO 1600
Seahawks fans were left to wonder what had happened to their team, which at the start of the season was predicted by most to win their division.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/800th sec., f2.8)

If I have time, I make a point of listening in on Mike Holmgren's postgame press conference. As this was a night game and I was on a tight deadline, I didn't stop to listen. However, I liked the atmosphere of his media briefing being held in a tunnel beneath the stands (visiting coaches sometimes have to put up with such inequities).



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 70mm, ISO 2000, 1/400th sec., f2.8)

While Seattle's fans were left empty-handed, Tampa Bay fans were enjoying a double-dose of victory. After watching the Bucs dismantle the Seahawks, many stayed in the stands to watch the Rays beat the hated Red Sox in a dramatic Game 7.

>

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/1000th sec., f2.8)


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October 18, 2008 10:52 PM

The View From Seat 13F.

Posted by Rod Mar

Here's the view out of the window on my flight into Tampa for tomorrow's Seahawks game against the Buccaneers.



(Canon G9, ISO 80, 1/2500th sec., f7.1, shot on RAW)



(Canon G9, ISO 80, 1/2500th sec., f7.1, shot on RAW)



(Canon G9, ISO 80, 1/2500th sec., f7.1, shot on RAW)

Given the state of the Seahawks right now, this is likely to be the most beautiful thing I see this weekend.

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October 14, 2008 11:07 PM

Shameless Self-Promotion.

Posted by Rod Mar

Here's a brief bit of shameless self-promotion (feel free to change the channel -- I won't hold it against you).

I've been invited to speak about my Olympic experience sponsored by Nikon and Samy's Camera in Los Angeles on November 6th.

The best part about this event for me is that I will be sharing the stage with three other great photographers, all of whom I consider both mentors and friends -- Robert Beck and John McDonough of Sports Illustrated, and Robert Hanashiro of USA Today.

It will feature a meet-and-greet, lecture and question-and-answer session.

Being invited to show my images and share my experiences is an honor but I'm really looking forward to hearing from the others and seeing their work and the stories behind them.

If you're in the Los Angeles area on November 6th, I look forward to meeting you.

Here's a link to the event, courtesy of Samy's Camera.

Here's a link to the story on Sportsshooter.com

Here's me at the Closing Ceremonies in my goofy photo vest....



(photo by John W. McDonough/Sports Illustrated)

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October 13, 2008 3:11 PM

Seahawks: At Least the Light Was Nice.

Posted by Rod Mar

Hmmm....not much to say about his one, so as they say on SportsCenter, "let's go straight to the low highlights.

The biggest highlight of the afternoon was the appearance of former (that's a reference to both the player and the team) Seattle Supersonics guard Gary Payton, who was on hand to raise the 12th Man flag before kickoff.

"G.P." seemed genuinely honored to be there, and did his part well as he pumped up the crowd before kickoff. Fans in the upper deck on the south end of the stadium chanted his name and when one fan offered a profane criticism of Oklahoma City, Payton snapped his head around, pointed at the fan and shouted back, "That's right! That's right!" as the throng grew even louder.



(Nikon D3, 14-24mm/f2.8 lens @ 14mm, ISO 400, 1/500th sec., f5.0)

One last interesting note was that we remember Payton as a wiry, rail-thin athlete. But age takes its toll on everyone, and even though you can't tell in these photos, "The Glove" is sporting a bit of a belly these days.



(Nikon D3, 14-24mm/f2.8 lens @ 24mm, ISO 400, 1/1600th sec., f5.0)

I think that one thing that gets lost in the translation from the sidelines to television is the violence and viciousness of the hits that players are laying upon one another. Not only can you hear in on the field, you can actually feel it, too. Hard to believe, but I swear it's true.

Seattle's Patrick Kerney, knowing that Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers has been nursing a shoulder injury, put a good lick on Rodgers in the first half.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 240mm, ISO 800, 1/1250th sec., f4.0)

Kick return specialist Josh Wilson broke two tackles and was heading up field before he was face-to-face with Packers kicker Mason Crosby. Kickers usually go low and try to take out a players feet or push the returner out-of-bounds, but Crosby squared up and actually tried, Josh Brown-like, to make an actual tackle.

Mistake. Wilson punished Crosby by lowering his shoulder and running right through him, forcing Crosby's chin strap up into his face. To Crosby's credit, he did slow Wilson enough for the Packers to come to his aid and make the tackle.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 400mm, ISO 800, 1/1000th sec., f4.0)

Green Bay's Ryan Grant, who victimized the Seahawks in the playoffs last year, took off around the left side and Seattle's Julian Peterson got a face-full of the hand of Packer's lineman Jermichael Finley.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 400mm, ISO 800, 1/1600th sec., f4.0)

Packer's receiver Donald Driver slid to avoid oncoming Seattle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, but still got thumped pretty hard, including a good forearm shiver to the midsection.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 400mm, ISO 800, 1/1600th sec., f4.0)

Seattle managed to go into halftime in a 10-10 tie, thanks in part to T.J. Duckett's nine-yard gain facing fourth-and-one that led to a Seahawks touchdown.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 280mm, ISO 800, 1/1600th sec., f4.0)

Even though the score was tied at half, any Seahawks fan who looked at the stats board knew their team was hanging in by the pigskin of their teeth.

The Charlie Frye-led offense had managed only five first downs, and 25 yards of passing. You can't win a flag-football game at Green Lake with only 25 yards in the air.

Sure enough, in the second half reality set in. Seattle's defense, which has been spotty all year, was on the field for nearly 18 of the 30 minutes in the first half, and fatigue set in, both physically and mentally.

In the third quarter on third-and-six at the Seattle 45 yard line, the Seahawks sent Brian Russell on a safety blitz, but Russell was corralled at the line of scrimmage on a move by DeShawn Wynn (42) that some would say constitutes a holding penalty. Others call this, "blocking".



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 800, 1/800th sec., f4.0)

On the play, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers found teammate Greg Jennings deep behind Seattle's Marcus Trufant for a 45-yard touchdown, and it was all but over.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 800, 1/800th sec., f4.0)

By the way, I'm sure you've noticed just how far out-of-position (oh, by about 120 yards...) I am for this play. Seattle had begun bringing a bit more pressure, and with fellow photographer Chris Joseph Taylor on the other side of the field, I was taking some chances. That's the problem with risk vs. reward. Sometimes you just screw yourself up.

Seattle's defense, who have had trouble getting in the way of most offenses this year, didn't have a problem getting in the way of my lens (okay, that's cheap, I admit it...I'm just bitter I was on the wrong end of the field).



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 800, 1/800th sec., f4.0)

Either way, it resulted in a touchdown for the Packers and Rodgers was off to the races doing his best imitation of a Brett Favre celebration.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 800, 1/800th sec., f4.0)



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 800, 1/800th sec., f4.0)

There was more to celebrate for Rodgers in the fourth quarter after he found John Kuhn open for a one-yard touchdown giving the Packers 24-10 lead. It was good to find an image that had both Rodgers smiling and his teammates celebrating in the background.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 400mm - a bit too tight since I cut off his feet - ISO 1000, 1/1000th sec., f4.0)

As I kept shooting, I also found a frame that told the entire story -- Rodgers' success and the failure of the Seattle defense to stop him.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 400mm, ISO 1000, 1/1000th sec., f4.0)

You could feel whatever life was left in Qwest Field being sucked out after that. Turning around towards the "Bird's Nest" in the north stands, a group of depressed fans made a nice portrait.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 360mm, ISO 1000, 1/2000th sec., f4.0)

It was so quiet in the stadium you could hear the cars starting in the parking lots as fans headed home in the face of another Seahawks' loss.

Seattle kept plugging away with their offense running one two cylinders, and Koren Robinson made a nice grab on the side of the end zone, and appeared to keep both feet in. However, because if the Seahawks didn't have bad luck they wouldn't have any luck at all, he was ruled out-of-bounds.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 24-70mm/f2.8 lens @ 51mm, ISO 640, 1/1000th sec., f3.5)

After that, it was time to seek some reaction from the Seahawks, who were falling to 1-4 in the won/loss column.

Defensive end Patrick Kerney hobbled over to the sidelines in pain, and was attended to by team physician Dr. Stan Herring.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 1600, 1/1250th sec., f4.0)

Injured quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who I warned in this blog last week might be more injured than he was letting on, didn't play and was in street clothes. Today, head coach Mike Holmgren announced that Hasselbeck wouldn't play next week at Tampa Bay, either.



(Nikon D3, 14-24mm/f2.8 lens @ 19mm, ISO 400, 1/640th sec.,f3.5)

I ventured into Mike Holmgren's postgame press conference to see his reaction, and he was understandably somber after the loss.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 400mm, ISO 1600, 1/800th sec.,f4.5)

No one expected the Seahawks to be 1-4 and facing an even tougher road with away games coming up at Tampa Bay and San Francisco. I know Seahawks fans are depressed about the turn of events, but for me this is still all about making pictures and capturing images that tell the story of this team's games and their entire season.

And, at least the light was nice.

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October 11, 2008 12:47 AM

High School Football: Homecoming Curse, Part III.

Posted by Rod Mar

Well, the curse strikes again.

I mentioned last week that my record at shooting high school homecoming games is less-than-stellar (that is, if you consider an "0-fer", as in the Washington Huskies 0-5 start, less-than-stellar).

For the third week in a row, I was assigned to a homecoming game. To be fair, I don't think the good people of Lake Stevens knew about the curse (they'd have to find this blog to know about it), but after shooting two homecoming blowouts in a row (sorry, Kentlake, 48-6 losers to Federal Way, and sorry, Juanita, 33-12 losers to Liberty), maybe we should have warned them.

I didn't realize it was homecoming when I initially arrived. I did, however, make a decent frame as Marysville-Pilchuck was walking to their locker room after pregame warmups. It's time like these that I wish I lived in Arizona or Texas so the sky would dramatically lit and full of color. No such luck in the Pacific Northwest.



(Nikon D3, VR 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 75mm, ISO 6400, 1/3200th sec., f2.8 -- yes, I know, nice exposure -- what can I say? It was a grab shot as I was taking the cameras out of my car...)

Upon seeing Jennifer Buchanan, a photographer from the Everett Herald, I asked for some local knowledge since she covers the area teams. "Should be pretty close", she said, "Marysville will pound it out on the ground, and Lake Stevens will air it out".

I was in the middle of thanking her when I saw the decorated golf carts along the track that circled the field. They'd be used for transporting princesses and queens at the halftime homecoming ceremony was my educated guess.

"Hey, Jenny," I asked, "is it homecoming?".

"Heck if I know - why do you care?", she replied.

"Well, it looks like homecoming to me, and that means Lake Stevens is probably going to go down in flames tonight", I laughed, telling her about the "curse".

She gave me a look that basically said, "Dude, whatever", and headed off to shoot kickoff.

Marysville Pilchuck's Andy Abadam (2) got his face-mask grabbed by Lake Stevens' Jason Mendel on the first play of the game but no flag was thrown.



(Nikon VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 6400, 1/500th sec., f2.8)

First drive, Lake Stevens throws an interception. Couple of plays later and Marysville-Pilchuck's Ryan Sterly broke off a 32-yard touchdown run that came right at me.



(Nikon D3, VR 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 160mm, ISO 6400, 1/500th sec., f2.8)

After that, it was pretty much total domination for Marysville-Pilchuck.

Marysville-Pilchuck's Brennan Steinbaugh sacked Lake Stevens quarterback Nick Baker during the first quarter. The Tomahawks' speed on defense forced Baker to run for his life for much of the first half.



(Nikon VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 4000, 1/500th sec., f2.8 -- it was brighter than I had previously thought, so I lowered the ISO to 4000)

And when Lake Stevens did complete a pass, they still paid for it. Marysville-Pilchuck defenders Ryan Sterley (left) and Colton Smith (right) sandwiched Lake Stevens receiver Tyler Bryant.



(Nikon VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 4000, 1/500th sec., f2.8)

On offense, Marysville-Pilchuck got an early lead and then protected it, choosing to chew up the clock by keeping the ball on the ground. Marysville-Pilchuck's Devin Peterson keeps the ball and darts upfield for a first down in the third quarter.



(Nikon VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 4000, 1/500th sec., f2.8)

Lake Stevens threatened to score late, but Marysville-Pilchuck forced a turnover and ran out the clock instead of trying for a final touchdown.

Final score, Marysville-Pilchuck 28, Lake Stevens 0.

Tally of the three homecoming games I've shot in the past three weeks:

Visitors 99, Homecoming Home teams 18.

Like I said, if I'm coming to your game next week, hide the floats, put away the fireworks and tell the princesses they'll have to wait until basketball season.

By the way, Lake Stevens might have lost their homecoming game, but their halftime fireworks show was sweet. And I'm glad that the spent shell that landed on my car didn't leave a burn mark.


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October 5, 2008 10:00 PM

Seahawks: A Giant Step Into Mediocrity?

Posted by Rod Mar

Most thought this Seattle team would contend, if not outright win another division title in the NFC Worst West, and now they've started the season 1-3.

To tweak former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green's famous line, is this group "NOT who we thought they were?"

Dare we say it?

Has the proverbial "window" closed on the Seahawks?

Before we get too carried away, let's not forget that Seattle is just recovering from an incredible slate of injuries (even though in the NFL, injuries are not an excuse), they were playing the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, and that they were underdogs going in.

But today's shoddy effort is what has the hated mainstream media wondering if this team is now too old, too small, and not talented enough to be still considered one of the top tier teams in the league.

New York Giants 44, Seattle Seahawks 6.

Ouch.

Add to their Sunday woes that division foe Arizona put a whipping on the previously undefeated Buffalo Bills (who schooled the Seahawks in the season opener) and you have a Seahawks team that seems to be in a world of NFL hurt.

It started out bad for the Seahawks when quarterback Matt Hasselbeck went down with a leg injury on the final play of the first series. He would return and play, but I wouldn't be surprised if medical exams on Monday reveal a more serious injury.

(I'm no doctor, I just dress like one on Halloween.)



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 640, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

Head coach Mike Holmgren rarely comes onto the field to check on injuries, but Hasselbeck appeared to be in a lot of pain so he made his way out to have a look for himself.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 640, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

Later, on the sidelines, team physician Dr. Ed Khalfayan examined Hasselbeck. Remember, photographers, if your starting quarterback, running back or any other star player gets hurt and you think it's serious, get over to the sidelines and shoot. It's more important than most plays. Especially if the injury is serious enough to be in the paper for more than a day or so...at some point more stories will be written and editor is going to want more photos of when that player got injured.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 35mm, ISO 500, 1/1000th sec.,f2.8)

It started poorly and just go worse for the Seahawks, who gave up five straight scores to the Giants.

On offense they couldn't run the ball. Julius Jones, who ran for 100+ yards in each of the past two games, only managed 61 yards against a stout Giants defense (and really, is there no other word that "stout" that goes with "Giants defense"?...I think not).

In the first half he was mauled by a group of Giants.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 640, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

In the second half he was sent flying by New York's Aaron Ross.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 640, 1/2000th sec.,f4.0)

Passing the ball didn't yield any better results and when Deion Branch, playing in his first game back after surgery last year, hurt his foot chasing down this incomplete pass, it was clear that touchdowns were going to be few and far between. This is a case of insult leading to the injury.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 200mm, ISO 640, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

Hasselbeck, who is one of the toughest athletes I've ever photographed, gamely hung in, taking his shots and even found himself on the receiving end of not one, but two facemask penalties. Antonio Pierce of the Giants is guilty on this one.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 320, 1/2000th sec.,f4.0)

Frustration set in a bit later, and Hasselbeck didn't seem to have his usual poise when he shouted over to the sidelines with his palms facing up.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 400mm, ISO 800, 1/1250th sec.,f4.0)

Seattle's one highlight came when defensive end Patrick Kerney finally got to Giants quarterback Eli Manning and forced a fumble, but that was recovered by the Giants. Here's both a loose and a tight version (gotta love those Nikons).



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 800, 1/1250th sec.,f4.0)



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 800, 1/1250th sec.,f4.0)

This looks like a funny picture as Side Judge Joe Larrew gets run into by New York's Reuben Droughns, but I gotta think more than a few officials have been hurt pretty good in collisions with players.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 33mm, ISO 500, 1/1000th sec.,f2.8)

Down by more than five touchdowns in the fourth quarter, frustration and dejection began to set in. Hasselbeck sat alone, replaced by backup Seneca Wallace.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 1000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

Cornerback Josh Wilson, who had what could be termed a tough day (or an incredible learning experience, I guess, if you want to be positive about it), sat fuming.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 1000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

Head coach Mike Holmgren, in his post-game press conference, described his team as "getting an old-fashioned you-know-what" (uh...would that be "butt-kicking", coach?).

The Seahawks seemingly got outplayed, outhustled, and physically manhandled. Not sure they're striking fear into any of their upcoming opponents at this point.

Seahawks fans might be looking at a different type of season than they're recently used to -- a team that's mediocre and in the middle of the pack.

It will be interesting to see how they respond next week.

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October 4, 2008 5:53 PM

Football: Don't Invite Me to Homecoming.

Posted by Rod Mar

So, if you occasionally drop by this little corner of the web (which is now even harder to find now that the links to it have been taken off the sports page), you know I've recently been struggling to make frames I like at football games.

Like many sports, in photography you can get into the "zone", where every time you go out to shoot something decent happens in front of your lens.

While I'm certainly not in anyone's zone, the frames are starting to appear in the cameras.

Friday night I was sent to shoot a high school football game in the rain.

Early in the game, I was able to get just enough of a peek as Liberty's Kyle Ahrens (white jersey) puts a highlight reel hit on Juanita's Jhalen Brown. The quarterback is just encroaching on the right side of the frame, and I cropped him out. But he's blocking the subsequent frames of this series. However, as the old saying goes, "all you need is one".



(Nikon VR 400mm/f2.8, ISO 6400, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

It was raining pretty hard, and you can see the spray come off the helmet on this hit.



(Nikon VR 400mm/f2.8, ISO 6400, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

One thing I've talked a lot about on the blog is the importance of backgrounds. Having a clean background can make all the difference in making a good photo great. Just so you know where I stand on this -- soccer goals don't make good backgrounds for football photos (that also goes for parked cars, storage trailers and portable toilets).



(Nikon VR 400mm/f2.8, ISO 6400, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

Liberty's Chandler Jenkins broke up the middle for a long gain in the first half, making a photo that would have been a good effort for me two weeks ago but wasn't even in medal contention last night.



(Nikon VR 400mm/f2.8, ISO 6400, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

High school kids fly around the field just like the pros, only a lot slower. Juanita's Cole Graves (1) looks for more yardage as Liberty's Kyle Ahrens flew by trying to make the tackle.



(Nikon VR 400mm/f2.8, ISO 6400, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

It's raining! Show the rain! Okay. Like it doesn't rain in Seattle anyway, right?



(Nikon VR 400mm/f2.8, ISO 6400, 1/100th sec.,f5.6)

Finally, a note to all high schools in the Greater Seattle area: if you're having homecoming, make sure Rod Mar is not in the stadium. For the past two weeks I've covered homecomings, and the home team has lost by a combined score of 81-18. At the end of the game, Juanita student John Elvidge, a senior, didn't appear too excited as the Rebels mounted a small comeback but still lost,



(Nikon VR 400mm/f2.8, ISO 6400, 1/250th sec.,f2.8)

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October 3, 2008 10:56 AM

Famed Photojournalist James Nachtwey's Latest Work.

Posted by Rod Mar

This is a departure from sports photography, but I know you won't mind.

For those of you who might not know the name, James Nachtwey is known as one of the greatest (if not the greatest) war photographer alive.

More than covering war, he also uses his cameras to document critical social issues as well.

In 2007, Nachtwey won the TED Prize, an initiative of the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Conference, which grants three extraordinary individuals one wish to change the world. Winners are given one hundred thousand dollars in seed money, and individuals within the TED community and the world at large participate in making the wish come true.

Nachtwey wished for help in breaking a news story in a way that demonstrates the power of news photography in the digital age.

His project was published online today, and it is a powerful piece of documentary photography about a form of tuberculosis called XDR-TB (extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis).

Click on the icon below...

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October 1, 2008 11:01 PM

Nikon D3: A New Way to See (and Shoot) at Night.

Posted by Rod Mar

In my last post, I marveled at the low-light capabilities of the Nikon D3.

At that high school football game, I was shooting with a 400mm/f2.8 lens. Forever, f2.8 has been the "magic number" of aperture. Technically speaking, opening the lens to that wide of an aperture allows enough light into the camera so the operator can shoot at a high enough shutter speed with which to successfully freeze action. In most cases, we are looking at a minimum of 1/500th second shutter speed. Any slower allows noticeable motion blur.

That's a lot of technical mumbo jumbo. Cutting to the chase, f2.8 used to be the magic aperture. The problem with f2.8 lenses is that in lenses longer than 100mm, the lenses require so many glass elements that the lenses become really freaking expensive.

Now, the low-light capabilities of the D3 and the quality of images it delivers at high ISO's makes f2.8 no longer the holy grail of aperture.

I know this because at last weekend's University of Washington football game against Stanford, I shot lenses with an maximum aperture of f4.0.

Specifically, I shot a Nikon VR 600mm/f4.0 lens and also their superb VR 200-400mm f4.0 lens.

Both were mainstays of my Olympics coverages, and I was excited to try them out at night football.

(Note that high school fields are far too dark for shooting at f4.0, but college and pro fields have better lighting.)

I shot at ISO 4000, although I could have shot at ISO 6400 as I had the night before. The images at ISO 4000 are just slightly underexposed.

I know, "what was I thinking?", right? I'm asking myself the same thing.

However, another photographer knew right away. "Who the heck shoots a college game for a Sunday paper at ISO 6400?

He was right -- anything over ISO 1600 is previously unheard of.

The camera got its first test when Washington running back David Freeman stretched out on a diving catch that he just couldn't complete, despite the fingertip effort.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 4000, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

That frame looked okay on the histogram (graph that tells me where the light and shadow fall within a captured image), but I was a little nervous so I slowed the shutter speed 1/3 of a stop from 1/1000th sec., to 1/800th second. Later Freeman tried to fend off a Stanford defender with a stiff-arm along the sidelines.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400m/f4.0 lens @ 250mm, ISO 4000, 1/800th sec., f4.0)

Washington receiver Jermaine Kearse leaps for a pass in the end zone as Stanford's Wopamo Osaisai defends in the first half.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 4000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

After Washington's starting quarterback Jake Locker was injured, redshirt freshman Ronnie Fouch took over.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 4000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

Here's both the full-frame and cropped versions of Stanford tight end Austin Gunder looking for yards after the catch.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 4000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)


Here's another example -- Stanford's Wopamo Osaisai breaks up a pass intended for Washington's Jermaine Kearse in the fourth quarter. I think if I'd cranked the ISO a bit higher, the exposure would have been more on the mark and the noise would have been even further reduced. But in the end, this frame is more than usable for publication in either our print product or online.



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4.0 lens, ISO 4000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)


As you can see, I'm very pleased with lots about the Nikon D3's low-light capability. I usually don't do a lot of writing about equipment, but this camera is a "game-changer", to use a sports cliche'. Canon will most certainly catch up soon (their new Canon 5D Mark II is supposed to have incredible low-light capabilities).

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